#KarhuBackpacking: Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

Gorge from Hamilton

The Columbia River Gorge is a canyon of that river, stretching for about 80 miles east from just outside Portland, OR across the Cascade mountains.  With that said, it is only natural that this mix of geography and circumstances creates a bundle of recreational opportunities.  People windsurf and SUP on the river, go fishing and kayaking, pretty much until they are blue from exposure and exhaustion.  Endurance junkies like Barbara and I, of course prefer to explore the 100 or so trail routes that exist in the Gorge, whether backpacking, day hiking or trail running.

Gorge Trail

These routes vary in difficulty from pedestrian and tourist-dayhike-appropriate walks, like the trails around Multnomah Falls to intermediate and backpackable destinations like Eagle Creek trail, to serious hikes with major elevation to gain on the way up, used by those training for serious mountaineering ascents, like Mount Hood and Mount Rainier.  Mount Defiance, arguably the toughest hike in the Gorge, gains approximately 4840 feet in about five miles.  Not exactly an easy endeavor, to say the least.

A typical Gorge campsite... not really.  Staged to show the views.

A typical Gorge campsite… not really. Staged to show the views.

Some of the trails can be turned into multi-day backpacking jaunts, with the possibility of finding some campsites with decent views, while others could be hidden fairly deep among trees.  The Pacific Crest Trail descends through the Gorge to its lowest point of 140 feet, crossing the Bridge of the Gods from Oregon north into Washington.  It is entirely possible to start hiking south on the PCT towards Wahtum Lake, camp in its vicinity, cut on over to the Eagle Creek trail, heading back north, arriving no more than a few miles from where you started, road walking east a bit to close the loop.

Gorge PCT Cascade Locks

Most of the trails offer awesome views.  It is not the Grand Canyon, but a gigantic fold of our planets skin nonetheless. On a clear and sunny day one sees the thick snake of the Columbia River making its way to the Pacific, while when it is overcast, it is not uncommon to be engulfed in thick fog.

Gorge Dog MountainWater sources are plentiful throughout the Gorge, with many opportunities to gather and treat water for backpacking purposes.  Waterfalls are also common.  Those are quite easy on the eyes.

Gorge Tunnel Falls

It would be interesting to see how many different hikes in the Gorge can be done in one day.  Three or four difficult ones is not a bad goal to shoot for.  That sounds like a good challenge for a future project.

Gorge Horsetail




@poindexterendurance on Instagram

Barb is @wildlifesangria